A Short History of People the ‘Locals’ Don’t Want Here Taking Over San Francisco

By Aziz Pabani

NIMBYs gathering to block new construction, electric scooters scattered all over downtown, and a general unease of tech taking over the city; San Francisco has built a reputation as a place for outsiders seeking a fortune or just mere refuge, and an entire history on the tensions of newcomers displacing the old (‘disrupting’ the latest arrivals would say). 
If SF seems to be in a constant battle between the two, it’s not the first time. Here’s a short history of the ‘outsiders’:

- Native Americans arrive, in search of plentiful fishing in the shallow waters of the bay, and a world removed from today’s Bay Bridge freeways and the Dogpatch/Hunters Point neighborhoods

- The Spanish; to explore new territories, bringing with them religion (Mission Dolores), new military outposts (the Presidio), and disease (we all know how that one ends)

- Mexicans, as they take independence from Spain, and set up the first trading outposts to start collecting taxes. Soon enough, America comes calling for all of California as part of the territory it gobbles up after the Mexican-American War (and the city first gets the name San Francisco)

- 80,000 men in search for the magic metal during the gold rush, turning a sleepy outpost into THE frontier town ambitious men pour in from around the country to seek a fortune

- Criminals and sexual ‘deviants’ at the Barbary Coast, creating a frontier town no Western movie could ever rival, the last remaining vestiges of which can be seen among the strip clubs on Broadway (and a far cry from the boutique shops lining Pacific and Battery today)

- Chinese in search of a better life, working risky jobs on the railroads and in the mines, and in the process building America’s first and largest Chinatown (and prompting an exclusionary backlash from the rest of the country- a story as old as America itself)

- The original Big Four, ‘The Associates’ the railroad tycoons of the Central Pacific Railroad: Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington and Leland Stanford- building a railroad fortune, and with it the architectural legacy of Nob Hill

- Italians from the old world, who bring with them much of the countryside (including their livestock), settling in the hilly streets of North Beach, setting up farmers markets, churches, and even their own vineyards

- Irish and other shipyard workers, fighting a pitched battle for labor rights on the now sanitized and tourist-friendly piers of Embarcadero, as part of a pioneering workers movement around the country

- Returning GIs from WWII, arriving back at the bay they were shipped out from, but this time to start a new life- pushing the boundaries of the city to the edges of Sunset and Richmond

- The Beat generation, trying to escape the staid life of postwar America, the safety of a corporate ladder, and an ever expanding national suburbia

- Hippies and summer of love, their stay marked with civil rights demonstrations and Vietnam war protests, and Haight-Ashbury becoming a cultural icon

- LGBT activists and others just seeking refuge, transforming Castro neighborhood into a center of gay expression, and Harvey Milk revolutionizing the city’s electoral landscape

- Money, from the first dot com boom, flowing in from Silicon Valley, increasing land prices to heady heights, followed inevitably by the dot com crash

- Techies and their gentrifying brethren moving north from their valley suburbs, rapidly transforming SOMA and the newly created Mission Bay neighborhoods, altering the city’s economic and demographic landscape

What’s next? A tech bust that many have been predicting for half a decade at this point? Or perhaps the fleeing California pattern finally hits the city and its unsustainable cost of living? Hard to predict, but one thing is for sure: If you’ve moved to SF in search of something better/greater/different- you’re not the first generation. Or if you’re among the ones trying to keep them out- you’re not the last either.